Cuban wants play-in games as NBA boss, owners ponder return

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New York (AFP)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wants an expanded playoff system when the NBA comes back from a coronavirus shutdown as club owners and commissioner Adam silver pondered return plans Friday.

Silver conducted a conference call with the league's 30 team owners on Friday, the same day that survey results from a similar session with NBA general managers were detailed in multiple media reports.

"They only certainty I have is safety first," Cuban told ESPN of what might happen when play resumes."Then we can start drilling down on dates and places and teams."

Most NBA general managers prefer to return from the coronavirus pandemic break with a traditional 16-team playoffs, ESPN and The Athletic reported.

The survey showed 16 of 30 general managers backing a plan to go directly into the playoffs with 16 clubs, with 16 also supporting usual seedings by Eastern and Western conference over an overall league 1-16 seeding.

Cuban disagreed, saying, "You don't want to throw guys right into the heat of the playoffs."

No timetable or return plan has been determined, with Silver listening to team owners, executives and the players union as well as looking at medical advancements and government stay-at-home rules dealing with COVID-19.

Cuban said he liked Silver's method of gathering information, saying of his way with NBA owners: "He knows how to herd cats."

The NBA reportedly plans to stage games without spectators in a made-for-television "bubble" atmosphere at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, to try and avoid spreading the deadly virus, which forced the league to shut down March 11 with just over a month remaining in the regular season.

Cuban wasn't worried about developing a safety system that players could trust when it came to testing and quarantine situations.

"Of course there's going to be uncertainty," Cuban said. "We just have to be transparent with everything."

Among other comeback options, eight general managers wanted to return by concluding the regular season then having a play-in tournament to decide the last post-season berths, five more opted for a direct-to-playoff return with a group-stage World Cup format or a play-in tournament. Only one sought a 30-team return to finish the season then hold playoffs.

When it came to playoff teams, 83% backed 20 or more clubs in an expanded format. Most often mentioned is a system with the top eight in the Eastern and Western Conferences plus the ninth-12th teams in the West, all within reach of the final spot when the shutdown came.

"I don't think it will be regular. This is our chance to experiment and learn," Cuban said.

"As long as you give players something to play for, they'll realize this is an opportunity," he added. "I think expanding that opportunity would be good for the league and create excitement for the fans."

- No 'drop dead date' -

Most general managers want to complete the season by October 1 with at least a couple months off before the start of a 2020-21 campaign in December.

There was greatest division over when to end the NBA Finals, with October 1 and September 15 getting the most support as concluding time for two months of playoffs.

"I don't think there's a drop dead date," Cuban said. "Start by August 1, that gives us plenty of time. We don't have to finish until the end of September."

NBA general managers also wanted increases in roster sizes to help allow for injuries and possible positive coronavirus tests, providing a bigger talent pool but also more people inside any NBA quarantine area.